Pork and Kimchi Cauliflower Fried Rice

My love for Fried Cauliflower Rice runs for at least 2 years deep. Some of you might remember my old post from 2014 for a basic version, or a Nasi Tomato adaptation (along with a cooking video! I must attempt that again soon). But because I have well and truly fallen off the Paleo bandwagon, this has dropped off my cooking rotation for a while. Meanwhile, my skill for the actual fried rice levelled up so much thanks to the rice monsters at home at one point I was considering opening up a place selling just fried rice. I’m looking at you, Kevin. But anyway I digress.

One day while we were getting ready to go out, I heard a cry from the next room. Thinking that Kevin might have hurt himself I rushed over to check, “I DON”T HAVE ANYTHING TO WEAR HUHUHUHUUUUU” he exclaimed with much exasperation. “Huh, why ah?” “Because I’m FAT la*”

Here, you heard it from me.

Yes, we keep ourselves active mostly, but we certainly have been indulging a little more than usual when it comes to food. Case in point: the Bak Kut Teh post just before this, haha. So with much persuasion and bribing, my-very-sexy-despite-a-little-overweight-so-he-claims-boyfriend finally agreed that we will go on a low carb diet, allowing one cheat day a week. Which means I get to exercise my muscles (and my brain) in the kitchen to come up with things interesting enough for him. I’m sure if I bring something like a poached chicken breast with blanched broccoli on a plate, he’d run out the door faster than our little Colt (the car). No….. we don’t want that. What we want, is diet food that tastes good. (Is there even such a thing?)

Well apparently yes. Something as simple as Cauliflower, mixed with other veges, some sort of protein and just some simple seasoning. Today, I present to you Kimchi and Pork Fried Cauliflower Rice! There’s no rice in this at all, so I can safely say that this is almost 100% nutri-dense. Plus, kimchi is really good for you what with the good bacteria for your gut and all. So without further ado, here’s a pic, and how you make this dish.

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Pork and Kimchi Cauliflower Fried Rice (for 3)
Half a head of Cauliflower
Few florets of Broccoli
2 clove of Garlic, minced
Half an onion, finely chopped
1 Carrot, finely chopped
1 big handful of Kimchi, chopped, reserving juice
100g Minced Pork
2 Eggs
Pinch of Salt and Pepper
1 tablespoon Soy Sauce*
1 tablespoon Ketchup
Spring onions, to garnish

To prepare the “cauli rice”, cut or tear the cauliflower florets by hand, remove excess moisture and pulse in food processor or blender until resembling rice. For this recipe, I pulse the cauliflower along with carrot and broccoli to save myself some time.

Heat oil in pan and saute onion and garlic until soft, then add minced pork and kimchi. Fry til the pork starts to brown, then add in all the vegetables. Stir around a little, then season with kimchi juice, soy sauce, ketchup, salt and pepper.

If you don’t drain the excess moisture enough, you will find that liquid will slowly pool up (happens to me all the time because I am err lazy). This is ok, just slowly let the liquid evaporates by pushing everything to the side. Not a disaster, but you do have to let all the liquid cook out otherwise it will become a soggy mess.

When the cauli rice is almost ready, make a well in the centre and crack 2 eggs into the space. Stir around to break up the yolks. Once it’s set, move around to mix everything merrily. Once the eggs are done, taste to adjust seasoning, then turn off heat. Garnish with Spring onion before serving. While this dish is also edible slightly cold, I’d suggest enjoy it while it’s hot for maximum comfort.

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As with normal fried rice, you can customize it until the cows come home. Don’t like pork? Use chicken or prawns, maybe tempeh if you want it vegetarian. More leftover vegetables crying for help in your drawer? Throw it in! The possibilities are endless. Eat this often enough (replacing your normal high carb meal la of course), you will thank me for your slimmer body soon enough.

So, since we have been so good this week, where shall we go for Bak Kut Teh this weekend?

Oh, and have a great weekend y’all!

*Conversation might not be in those exact words. But you get the jist la

Steamed 3 Colour Egg with Mince Pork

When it comes to eggs, there are so many ways to prepare it. Fried, Boiled, Poached, Baked, Steamed, and work into different recipes be it sweet or savoury. And if you are bored of the regular egg, you can trust the Chinese to come up with different ways of preserving eggs. Salted egg is magical stuff. Use it to coat anything, instant umami boost. And for those who are truly adventurous, Century Egg may look funky but has a far more complex flavour. For today’s recipe, I have combined all 3 of them for a truly comforting dish.

I’ve grown up eating Steamed eggs of all kinds of variations. At the very basic, it can be just eggs, water and some seasonings. It’s also commonly paired with minced pork for a more substantial meal. Over time, this dish has evolved to be more and more elaborate. Nowadays, I usually add both salted egg and century egg in our dish for that extra decadence.

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There are a few basic steps to steamed eggs. The water to egg ratio is generally about 1.5 to 1 or less. You can do this by measuring water with the halved egg shells. But I generally eyeball it by the level of the liquid in the bowl. The heat can’t be too high, or you’d risk spoiling the texture of the egg. Some people are particular about the super smooth surface of the egg, you can achieve that by lowering the heat so the water droplets don’t form on the cover to drip down. I tend to be less pedantic about that, even sprinkling the spring onions before the eggs are cooked (I don’t like to eat super raw spring onions). I’m not sure if this one has a scientific explanation, but I was told to used boiled water instead of tap water for better texture.

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My not so pretty steamed egg, haha!

Anyhoo, here’s the recipe!

Steamed Pork with 3 Colour Egg
150g Mince Pork
3 Eggs
1 Century Egg
1 Salted Egg
Cooled Boiled Water
Spring Onion
Sesame Oil
Soy sauce
White pepper
Half teaspoon cornflour

Marinate the pork with a touch of soy sauce, white pepper and cornflour and set aside til needed. Steam Salted egg for 5 minutes until cooked, then mash into small pieces. I usually crack it first to steam it in a small bowl. You could also steam the egg whole. Peel century egg and chop into small pieces. In a large bowl, crack 3 eggs and beat lightly, then add water. Mix well.

Prepare your steaming device (basic wok and metal trivet for me), making sure the water level is lower than the plate. Place the minced pork at the base of the steaming plate then pour over the egg and water mixture. Then scatter the chopped salted egg and century egg. Cover and steam for around 10 minutes. Then open up the cover and sprinkle spring onion on top, then steam for further 5 minutes or until done. To check, shake the plate, the egg should be slightlyy wobbly but set. Drizzle sesame oil on top, turn off heat and serve hot with rice.

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The two other egg creates a jewel-like effect, very pretty! Usually this portion would serve around 5-6 people nicely, though in our household 3 of us can polish this.

What’s your ultimate homecooked comfort dish?

Oriental Lasagna with Cream Crackers

How many of you grew up eating Cream Crackers? Well I certainly did as my father has been working with Hup Seng for the longest time as a wholesale distributor and if there’s anything that’s omnipresent in our household, this is it. There are many years Malaysians love to enjoy Cream crackers. Some of you would probably vouch for Milo + Crackers as your breakfast growing up. Kaya is a popular one as well I’m sure. I used to drizzle condense milk on my crackers, definitely not the healthiest but since we are already going there, why not go all the way right?

I remember once I was at a house party in Bintulu (of course I was still very young then), and I came across this savoury snack made with cream crackers, or we used to like to call it Ping Pong biscuits back then. It kinda did blow my mind. The eggy filling with something as simple as luncheon meat was all the more comforting. That was my only encounter with this Foochow hybrid snack. I don’t even know what it’s really called. But google turned up some results and I guess I’m gonna go with Oriental Lasagna.

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It resembles a lasagna because the cream crackers act as “Lasagna sheets”, you’ll do either 5 or 7 layers (depends how much crackers you want to consume). Although, the egg and milk filling also makes it similar to a quiche. The fillings always include Luncheon meat and onions at its simplest, especially back in the days when luxurious ingredients aren’t readily available. I added mushrooms in mine to errr lighten it slightly, haha. When cut up, it looks like this:

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My layers aren’t so distinctive because my egg/milk ratio is slightly higher thus the layers look more filled up. Which is fine for me because I love the filling. How to make this? Very simple, even kids can do it!

Oriental Lasagna (苏打饼千层糕)adapted from My Cooking Escapades.

Ingredients:
27 pcs of Cream Crackers (36 if you are doing an extra layer, which is what most people do I think)
1 can evaporated milk
5 eggs

Filling:
1 Onion, finely chopped
1 can Luncheon Meat, diced
Button mushrooms, a handful and roughly chopped
chili flakes
salt (optional)
White pepper

In a pan heat oil on high heat and saute onions until translucent, then add mushrooms and luncheon meat. Cook until slightly coloured and season with pepper and salt if you want to. i didn’t add any salt at all. Turn off heat and set aside. Depends on the amount of layers you might want to divide into either 2 or 3 portions.

Beat evaporated milk and eggs together and soak cream crackers in small batches (I soaked 9 at a time so I can do the whole layer, you can do it in even smaller amount). Just a few seconds would be fine, you just want the crackers to be less brittle to handle, since you’ll be drowning everything later anyway. Meanwhile, oil your square cake tin too (23cm x 23cm would be ideal).

Start lining the soaked cream cracker, your tin should fit 3 x 3, if not you might want to consider biting off the edges (just kidding, a little bit of overlapping won’t hurt). Spread half the luncheon meat mixture over, then layer with more cream crackers. Spread the other half of the meat mixture, and finish with the last layer of cream crackers.

Pour the remaining of the egg mixture over the top. Use a spatula to press down the top layer gently to ensure all layers are submerged. Steam for around 30minutes, or cover the tin with foil to bake for 40 minutes in 180C oven.

Let cool slightly before removing. I’d suggest at least 30 minutes. It’s lovely when warm, but perfectly fine room temperature. Serve it with chili sauce for extra oomph. I recommend Lingham’s.

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Don’t underestimate the serving. I think this easily feed around 10 people. I’m pretty sure this just blew Kevin’s mind today too. The sweetness of onion, savoury crackers and luncheon meat make such good pairing. A dose of chili sauce really elevates the whole experience too. This is something that will appeal to all ages for sure.

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Our breakfast!

This can keep in the fridge, although I’d guarantee there won’t be much leftover. Just reheat in the oven or re-steam before serving. I use my trusty airfryer of course. Though I’d recommend try baking it for a slightly crispy top for that textural contrast.

Please do try it at home and let me know how it goes!

Bitter Gourd Omelette

Ahhhhh… Bitter Gourd. You either love it or hate it. For me it was love developed overtime. I still remember vividly the first time Bitter Gourd appeared in my household when I was a lot younger. I was not the most adventurous eater back then (sure am making up for lost time now hehe), but my sister was tempted by its beautiful flower-like appearance. But one bite, she was traumatised for life (or at least for many years after). So yes, the taste of Bitter Gourd can take a little getting used to, but it does come with a myriad of health benefits.

Bitter Gourd is a temperate/tropical vegetable originated in South-East Asia, it’s very low in calories, but contains high amount of Vitamin C, folate, ß-carotene, a-carotene, lutein, zea-xanthin and Vitamin A. It’s also moderate source of B-complex vitamins such as niacin (vitamin B-3), Pantothenic acid (vitamin B-5), Pyridoxine (vitamin B-6) and minerals such as Iron, Zinc, Potassium, Manganese and Magnesium. Most importantly, it contains a phyto-nutrient called polypeptide-P, a plant insulin known to lower blood sugar levels, which means it’s great for people with diabetes too. So in short, all of us would benefit from consuming Bitter Gourd.

There are many ways of preparing Bitter Gourd. My favourite would be Bitter Gourd Omelette. Although I’m also partial to Bitter Gourd and Pork soup. I’d say that Bitter Gourd omelette appears pretty often on our table anyway. But it wasn’t until couple of months ago during our trip to Penang, our mind was truly blown.

Most of the time when we cook Bitter Gourd Omelette, the eggs are fully cooked, achieving a little bit of char for that extra wok hei. But not at this place called Song River Coffee Shop at Gurney Drive Penang.

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The egg was runny, and a brown sauce is poured over, providing that extra umami touch. I know it’s super simple, but please give a round of applause to whoever came up with this recipe. It has truly set a new standard for us. Needless to say, this dish was the highlight of our trip and I vowed to never cook Bitter Gourd any other way.

The dish is simple enough though. I’ve since cooked it a few times at home and it’s always the first dish to finish. Here’s my version:

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Mine’s a little more cooked than the Song River’s, you can always undercook it a little more. But the idea is to achieve at least 50% runny bit for the ultimate sensory experience.

Bitter Gourd Omelette

Half a medium size Bitter Gourd, halved lengthways and thinly sliced
3 Eggs
Light Soy Sauce (around 1 tablespoon)
Fish Sauce (around 1 teaspoon)

Usually, after I sliced the Bitter Gourd, I like to sprinkle some salt over and leave it for 10-15 minutes, as this will draw out excess juice to make it less bitter. You can omit this step if you like it extra bitter. Rinse the salt off well, and set aside. Mix the soy sauce and fish sauce with a little of water and set aside.

Heat a pan on high and add your choice of oil. You need a little more for the eggs to be nice and smooth. Add Bitter Gourd and cook for 2-3 minutes until soften.

Break the eggs into a bowl and lightly break up the yolks, don’t beat it though because we want to keep the yolk and white slightly separated. Distribute the Bitter Gourd evenly and pour over the egg. Use the spatula to move it a couple of times to distribute the egg. Then let it cook for under a minute, until the bottom is just set.

Pour over the sauce around the side and over the middle just as you turn off the heat, and serve immediately. Best with rice!

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Yeap. It’s just simple as that!

A video posted by Kelly Siew (@kellysiew) on Oct 2, 2016 at 3:01am PDT

 

Look at that wobble!

As for the sauce, if you have a very good soy sauce which has a balance of sweet and savoury note, you won’t need anything else. Feel free to adjust the sauce to your liking, I sometimes add a touch of Black vinegar too for a little tang.

Do try this at home and let me know what you think!

Pork Belly Adobo

Words cannot describe how much I love pork belly in any form. Roast, Fried, Braised, Baked, you name it, I’ll eat it. Or maybe more accurately, I love biting into the succulent fat. It’s truly surprisingly I’m not obese by now. I guess that’s further supporting evidence that consuming animal fats isn’t the worst thing you can do to yourself. Note that I do have familial hypercholesterolaemia but my levels are actually pretty good ever since I change my diet habit to embrace real fats (synthetic fat is bad for you yo!).

Anyways, as you might have noticed, my work schedule is completely inhuman lately. With average of 20 shows per month, I really don’t have much time off to do my own thing. Therefore, cooking has to be fast and simple, yet not losing the flavours. In my last post, I’ve included a photo of this dish I cooked along with the Preserved Veges dish which some of you have eyes sharp enough to pick it out. And today I’d like to share the recipe of this delicious Pork Belly Adobo.

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Adobo is pretty much a national dish of Philippines. It involves meat, seafood or vegetables cooked in soy sauce, vinegar and garlic. The name might be taken from the Spanish, but the cooking method is definitely native. Chicken is commonly used, so is Pork. It’s a no brainer which one I prefer.

The process involves marinating the pork for at least an hour, and then just a simple braising process to allow the flavours to penetrate the meat until it’s nice and tender. Technically you won’t even need a recipe for this, but I shall break it down for you.

Pork Belly Adobo

300g Pork Belly, cut into bite size pieces
1/4 Cup Light soy sauce
1 tbsp Dark Soy Sauce (optional)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 Cup Vinegar
2 Bay Leaves
1 teaspoon Black peppercorns

Marinate the pork belly in half of the soy sauce, garlic for at least 1 hour. If you need to leave it in the fridge, make sure the pork comes back to room temperature before cooking.

Heat a non-stick pan and add all the pork in to brown (there’s no need for oil since there’s plenty of fat in the pork already), then add the rest of the ingredients except vinegar (soy sauce, sugar, garlic, bay leaves, black peppercorns), stir to combine, bring to boil then turn down the heat to simmer.

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Add a bit of water and let the dish simmer for around 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the pork is starting to get tender, add vinegar and cook for further 20 minutes. The cooking liquid should be slightly thicker at this point. Turn off the heat and let it sit for around 15 for the flavours to further develop. Serve hot with rice.

Here’s a close up.
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If you like your food spicy, you can actually add a chili padi or two during the cooking process. I prefer to just serve it with chili to tailor to individual liking. This method can be adapted to chicken as well, but the cooking time will be much shorter.

Hope you get to try this one day!

Preserved Mustard Green with Minced Pork (雪里红炒肉末)

It’s amazing how with years of cooking vegetables I’m still constantly finding new exciting recipes to try. Recently Kevin and I went to a Chinese Restaurant that serves a huge variety of traditional Chinese dishes called Da Feng Shou (Good Harvest). The tag line mentioned Fu Zhou Home Cooked Dishes which piqued my interest (as you know I’m Foochow), but the menu appears to be a mixture, with a slight bias to Szechuan dishes. No big deal, plenty of things I like anyway.

Kevin spotted Xue Li Hong on the menu and insisted on ordering it. Its Chinese name translate to Red in the Snow, which could be a little morbid come to think of it. But it’s actually a type of Preserved Mustard Green, and it’s super easy to make at home. The dish blew my mind with its explosion of flavours and it goes so well with rice. Needless to say, I decided to try it at home. Here’s my version:

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Traditionally, Xue Li Hong is made with Gai Choy, though nowadays Choy Sum is also commonly used. I opted for the latter as it’s easier to find. The process involves just few steps: First you wash the leaves clean and separate the stalks, then you generously sprinkle salt over and gently rub into the leaves, wait for an hour or so until everything softens, then put the whole bunch into a ziploc bag to preserve in the fridge. 1 or 2 days would be enough, checking it from time to time to drain exceed liquid, but 1 week would be more ideal.

When you are ready to cook, simply take the Xue Li Hong out, rinse it well, squeeze out the excess liquid and chop into small pieces. Like so:

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I wanted to keep this dish simple yet flavourful, so I’ve chosen to fry it with Pork Lard, Mince Pork and a touch of chili. The ingredients are as follow:

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Pork Lard (I cut it off a piece of pork belly I was using the cook another dish)
100g Mince Pork, marinate with a touch of soy sauce, Shao Xing wine and white pepper
Xue Li Hong (of course)
2-3 cloves of Garlic, finely chopped
1 Chili Padi

First, let’s render the pork lard. Heat the pan and add in the small pieces of lard and cook until brown. You’ll see plenty of oil rendered with just that tiny bit. Keep the crispy bit in the pan of course, it’s like golden treasure.

Bring the heat to high, add garlic and cook until fragrant, then add mince pork to cook until no longer pink. Lastly, add the Xue Li Hong to pan along with chopped chili padi (I only add one because our chili padi is rather powerful, feel free to adjust to your taste). Just a splash of water to bring everything together, and you can turn off the heat. Serve hot with rice.

Take note that the Xue Li Hong is already salty, so there’s no need to add anymore salt.

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The whole dinner spread:

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Pork Belly Adobo and Green Bean Omelette. Simple dishes, maximum flavours, happy tummies!

Grilled Eggplant with Ponzu

Bliss, is when you have found a life partner who is just excited as you are to go on food adventures of different kinds. I’m lucky that Kevin and I seem to agree most of the time on our meal choices, and that has brought us some memorable dining experiences, some are hits and some are misses (usually promptly blacklisted by us). Sometimes, a dish left such lasting impression, I felt compelled to replicate at home.

Several months ago, Kevin and I went to 炭家 Sumika, a fairly well-known Yakitori restaurant located at SS15 Subang Jaya. This restaurant has a strong following, and you do have to book ahead to guarantee a seat. There is only one grill and one Yakitori master manning it (though he does have help by his side), expertly turning the skewers around and seasoning everything to perfection.

All the skewers we ordered, be it Chicken, Pork, Beef, or various organs (our favourite) were good. But what really won us over was the Grilled Eggplant. I don’t have a good picture to show you, but let me paint you a picture. A long, sizable Eggplant slowly charred on the grill for that perfect smokiness. The skin is then peeled, revealing its silky flesh, which is then cut into smaller pieces, drizzled with Ponzu Shoyu and then covered with Bonito Flakes. Our mind was blown.

Of course, I don’t have a charcoal grill at home (what an investment that would be), but I do have an Airfryer that does amazing things with Eggplants (I’ve made Baba Ganoush and Tortang Talong that employs the same principle of charring the eggplant), so this dish made into fairly high rotation at home.

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Ponzu is a citrus-based sauce commonly used in Japanese cuisine and it’s often combined with Soy sauce. I used a bottled one. You should be able to find it in the Japanese food section of your supermarket. If not, it’s not so difficult to make at home. Here’s a recipe.

This dish really so simple it’s pretty much a non-recipe. With an airfryer, simply set the Eggplant to grill on 180 degrees Celcius for 10 minutes. Once it’s done, carefully peel off the skin (it should come right off), place on a plate and cut into bite size pieces with scissors. Drizzle enough Ponzu sauce and Soy Sauce over, then garnish with Bonito Flakes. Serve when hot.

No airfryer? Fret not, you can still char it over the stove, bake it for another 15 minutes and then proceed with the same steps. Do bear in mind though with the airfryer it won’t have the distinctive charred/smokiness aroma. So if that’s really important to you, then this recipe is not for you (invest in a charcoal grill!).

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Enjoy this with or without rice, along with other dishes (teriyaki chicken is a good one, grilled salmon is fabulous too). If you love eggplant as much as we do, you’ll fall in love with this too.

Salted Egg Yolk Cookies (CNY)

It’s exactly one week to go until Chinese New Year! Have you bought all the necessary things (by necessary I mean mostly food) yet? Some of you have been baking up a frenzy, no doubt. Since we finally got a decent oven for this household, I’ve been hardworking enough to churn out some Chinese New Year cookies as well, and this year I’ve decided to try something new: Salted Egg Yolk Cookies!

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Salted Egg Yolk (SEY) anything have always been hugely popular in Malaysia/Singapore and people are putting them in everything: ice cream, croissant, waffles, pasta…. you name it and it has been tried. It’s hard to resist the allure of it, of course. It’s the very definition of umami, and adds that extra decadence to your dishes, be it sweet or savoury. Because of the SEY craze, I’ve tried putting it on pizza, pasta and our favourite concoction has to be these melt-in-the-mouth cookies. Easy to make, absolutely delightful to eat. You just can’t stop at one bite!

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Here’s the recipe I use with a little bit of adaptation of my own. It’s pretty straight forward and it goes without saying that the better ingredients you use, the better it will taste. So try to get Salted Egg from the market, and best butter you can buy (I’d suggest Kerrygold because I only use Grassfed butter, the cheaper alternative is Anchor). I added milk powder because I like the taste, you can totally omit it if you wish. Let’s get to it!

Salted Egg Yolk Cookies (adapted from Bake for Happy Kids)
125g Plan Flour
10g Corn Starch
1/8 Teaspoon Baking Powder
2 Salted Egg Yolks
85g Butter
40g Sugar
1 Tablespoon Milk Powder
Pinch of Salt
Egg wash
Sesame Seeds

First, cook the salted egg yolks, you may choose to cook the salted egg whole and just scoop out the egg yolks, or steam the yolks alone. What I do is I usually boil the whole egg for about 9 minutes (I’ve tried cooking for shorter time but the egg yolks tend to be undercooked). By the way if you have some fantastic ideas for leftover salted egg whites, send it my way! Mash the egg yolk with a fork and set aside until needed.

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Weigh out the ingredients accordingly. I usually do the flour, corn starch baking powder, salt and milk powder together.

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In a big bowl, weigh out butter and sugar and mix it together well (you can use a handmixer for this too). Pour the rest of the dry ingredients together along with the salted egg yolks, and mix well.

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The dough now should come together easily when you gather by hands.
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Flatten the dough to a disc (around 6mm thickness would be ideal) and wrap in cling film to cool in fridge for around half an hour. When you are ready, pick your favourite cookie cutter and cut out the dough. When it’s sufficiently cold, it should be quite easy to handle. If it gets too soft, put it back into the fridge for a while and then continue working.

By now you should have your oven preheated to 170 degree Celsius. This number should yield around 80 small cookies so you can do it in 2 batches. Brush the top with some egg wash and sprinkle sesame seeds on top. The egg wash is important here because not only it will give the cookies a nice sheen, it also acts as a glue for the sesame seeds.

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Send the baking tray into the oven and bake for 15 minutes or until lovely golden. Let cool completely and try not to steal too many of it before storing it in airtight container.

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I’ve already made 3 batches of these and there’s barely anything left now (it’s only a 3 person household, mind you). Kevin actually finished the first batch in one seating. So much for watching his diet. Hehe. I guess I need to make some more before next week then.

Happy Baking (and Eating)!

R.AGE Food Fight: Ayam Masak Merah with Cauli “Nasi Tomato”

What’s red in colour, delicious, and also uniquely Malaysian? Ayam Masak Merah, a Kedahan dish commonly seen at Hari Raya Celebration and Malay Weddings, of course. Do you know what else is red and Malaysian? Red Palm oil, which is the star of the day in this blog post. Needless to say, I decided to cook this dish because I was inspired by the colour, but it also happens to be one of my favourite Malaysian dishes, due to its rich aroma, and a nice balance of savoury note, sweetness, richness, piquancy and just enough heat to tickle your system.

Did you know that Malaysia is the world’s second largest producer of Palm oil? Interestingly enough most of it is exported and we don’t really see a lot of Palm oil used in cooking locally. It’s not that Palm oil is not good for us, in fact, it’s high in antioxidants, which is responsible for combating free radical damage. It also has virtually no cholesterol, just like another super cousin of it, the coconut oil. It has its signature red hue due to high level of beta-carotene, which is a precursor to Vitamin A (the Vitamin that’s good for our eyes), and it’s also high in Vitamin E. In short, it comes with pretty attractive health benefits, but of course as with all fats, consuming in moderation is key.

Ayam Masak Merah with Cauli-Nasi Tomato

This recipe is super nontraditional as I’m adding my own twist to it. For example, a good amount of recipes calls for canned tomato soup for the gravy, and I’ve opted for canned tomatoes instead for a fresher taste. I’ve also added lemongrass in the spice paste for an extra depth of aroma. Ayam Masak Merah is commonly paired with Nasi Tomato, and I’ve done my own interpretation of a low carb substitute using Caulifower instead. Although this means that I can’t cook it the traditional way infusing milk, spices and tomatoes slowly into the grains, but nothing a good dose of gravy over won’t fix, right? This way, you even get your vegetable quota sorted. By the way, it’s also Gluten-free and Paleo friendly, how about that?

The cooking process is a little complicated, and involves deep frying (*gasp*) as this is the way we can keep the chicken juicy with a nice firm texture. You might also work up a sweat if you don’t have a fancy food processor (which I don’t), but with the end result this delicious, I can assure you it’s all worth the effort. Now let’s get cooking! To make this a little extra special, I shall include a full cooking video for your viewing pleasure.

Ayam Masak Merah (Malay Red Cooked Chicken) with Cauli-Nasi Tomato

Ingredients:
Spice Paste:
5-6 Shallots
3 Red Chili (or more if you like it spicier)
1 thumb sized Ginger
5-6 cloves of Garlic
1 Stalk Lemongrass

Spices (roast in pan beforehand):
2 Star Anise
3-4 Cloves
1 stick of Cinnamon

500g Chicken Drumsticks (or any other part you like)
1 teaspoon Turmeric Powder
1 teaspoon Salt
1 canned Tomatoes
300ml Coconut Milk
Palm Oil

Cauli Nasi Tomato
Half head of Cauliflower
1 tablespoon Tomato Paste
1 tablespoon Ketchup

First, to make the spice paste. Place everything in food processor/blender/pestle & mortar/or anything that can chop things into small pieces and process til fine. I had to make do with a smaller device on the day of filming the cooking video so my spice paste isn’t as paste-y as it should be. But well, still tasty! Set aside until needed.

Then we move on to deep fry the chicken. The Chicken drumsticks need to be marinated with turmeric and salt for at least half an hour. Fill a pot with Palm oil (great choice for deep frying because of the high smoke point), and when it’s hot enough (you can test it with a wooden chopstick, if it bubbles up it’s ready) add the chicken pieces to deep fry until they are starting to take on a glorious colour. Remove from oil and drain on paper towel.

Pour most of the oil out leaving around 3 tablespoons, and add in the spice paste to stir fry. You want to cook until it’s nice and fragrant and starting to split from the oil. Then add in the canned tomatoes (I’ve actually used my hand to squeeze the tomatoes into smaller pieces, you can also use a blender for this job), followed by the roasted spices and coconut milk. Mix everything well, and add the chicken drumsticks. Turn the heat to medium low and simmer for about 30-40 minutes until chicken is fully cooked and the sauce is nice and thick. Taste for seasoning, adding salt and sugar if needed.

While the chicken is cooking, we can prepare the Cauli “Nasi Tomato”. Cut the cauliflower into small florets, and use a blender/food processor to pulse a few times until the cauliflower become rice grain like (do not over process!). Heat the pan with Palm oil, and add the cauliflower rice, follow by tomato paste. Cook for 3-4 minutes until cauliflower is softened. Serve hot.

To assemble, place the cauli rice (using a bowl to mold if you want it nicely shaped) onto a plate, then pick your drumstick, making sure you also get plenty of that nice gravy on. Garnish with sliced tomatoes, some coriander and serve with achar if you like.

I love everything about this dish: the vibrant colours, the addictive gravy, succulent chicken, piquant cauli rice (with the added bonus of health), and the fact that the goodness of Palm oil is fully utilised. I hope you get to try this dish at home too, as it will sure impress your taste buds, and your family/friends.

Spaghetti and Zoodles with Cauliflower Pesto, Bacon and Shrimps

One click to check my blogging history and I realised that I have not posted a recipe for *gasp* 6 months! That’s too damn long for one who claims to post ‘a lot’ of recipes on her blog. For this, I do apologise for those who have been waiting for me to post something (I’m talking about you Michelle, and few others who have specifically asked for THIS recipe). First, maybe an overdue update on my personal life.

I went through quite a significant life change over the past few months. A new relationship, new living arrangement (I’m now a PJ girl), new job (started a teaching job at an International College), new routines (no longer the night owl, though still a party girl during weekends). Needless to say, it took a few months for me to readjust and now that the dust has settled and I’m comfortable around the new kitchen, I can get back to recipe blogging again.

Of all the recent dishes I’ve cooked and posted on social media, this dish seemed to be the most popular so I thought I’d end this drought with this recipe: Spaghetti and Zoodles with Cauilflower Pesto, Bacon and Shrimps.

2 major things about this recipe: 1. It’s low carb. 2. It’s dairy free. And let me just tell you that it’s absolutely delicious. Zoodles are noodles made with zucchini by the way. If you have the magical gadget that is called the Paderno Vegetable Spiral Cutter (in short Spiralizer) you’ll be able to turn any hard vegetable into noodles = instant low carb meal (unless you use potato, of course)! If you don’t have the spiraliser, you can use a julienne peeler too. As for the sauce, I’ve used cauliflower to emulate the creamy texture because I didn’t use cheese in the pesto, keeping this recipe ‘almost paleo’. The reason I’ve added actual spaghetti is that Kevin still likes his carbs and I’m not going to deny him of his pleasure. If you want it to be completely guilt free, omit pasta altogether.

This is a great way to up your daily vegetables intake and chances are, you won’t even realise there is cauliflower in the mix. The zoodles do have a slightly different texture to pasta and that does take a bit to get used to, but nevertheless this dish will give you satisfaction as do any other pasta dish. This dish is also super quick to put together, making it a perfect weeknight dinner, while also suitable to impress your dinner guests. So let’s get cooking!

Spaghetti and Zoodles with Cauliflower Pesto, Bacon and Shrimps

Ingredients:
(serves 3 persons, or 2 with super hearty appetite)
2 medium zucchini, spiralised into zoodles
100g Spaghetti
12-15 Shrimps, peeled and deveined
4-5 strips of Streaky bacon, cut into lardons.

Cauliflower Pesto
Quarter of a head of cauliflower, cut into small florets
1 supermarket packet of fresh basil (1 big handful)
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 Walnuts
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the spaghetti according to packet instructions in salted water until al dente. Add the cauliflower florets in the last 5 minutes and drain out separately.

To make the cauliflower pesto, add a whole bunch of basil into the food processor, along with 2-3 cloves of garlic, a generous pour of Extra virgin olive oil, walnuts (or pine nuts if you want to stay more original), salt and pepper, followed by the drained cauliflower. Process until almost smooth, scraping down the sides a few times. Adjust the liquid level by adding some pasta water if you wish, taste for seasoning.

Heat oil in pan and add bacon. Cook until starting to brown, then add thyme and zucchini and stir for 3-4 minutes. Push everything aside and add prawns to stir fry for 2-3 minutes until just cooked. Turn the heat to lowest, add drained pasta and Cauliflower pesto and stir to combine. Serve immediately, with or without chili flakes. Refresh even more with a squeeze of lemon juice if you like.

If you like pesto and pasta, you’ll definitely love the lighter take of this dish. It’s as herbaceous as it can get, and the cauliflower lends an extra creaminess without actually adding any dairy products. This is going on high rotation in my household, and in fact, I have 2 zucchinis waiting in the kitchen for me as we speak! Enjoy cooking!